In sports, you learn that no matter how hard you tried or worked, the outcome is binary: you win or you lose.
Sometimes, those championships are created by those who aren't around. That is how I am starting to feel about David Shaw and Stanford. Since David Shaw became the head coach in 2011, Stanford has gone 42-13 with a 25-3 home record and an undefeated mark against Cal. In 3 of his 4 seasons, he took Stanford to a BCS game; 2 of those games as the Pac-12 Conference Champion
Off the field, Shaw is recruiting 4- and 5-star recruits like never before. He has had a top 25 class in 4 of his 5 years and had a top 5 class in 2012. Stanford is currently in the top 15 already for 2016, and it's within reason that Stanford could have another top 10 class. This all sounds like a coach that could put a team in the national championship picture. But at Stanford today, 8 wins is closer to unacceptable than it is an achievement. Shaw and co. took over a program that can compete not just with Oregon and USC but Ohio State and Alabama.
The 2011 and 2012 seasons were built on Harbaugh's recruits. With few exceptions, those kids committed when Jim Harbaugh was running the show. So if you throw out those first 2 seasons, David Shaw is now 19-9 at Stanford. The 9th loss occurred against Northwestern just last Saturday. Now that's still about 9 wins a year, which would be something extraordinary at Stanford before Harbaugh changed the culture. But 2013 was the year that would foreshadow the future of Stanford football. Stanford was good enough to win the Pac-12 but went on offensive droughts that cost them games. 69 teams averaged a touchdown per quarter or 28 points per game in 2013. Stanford was 70th, just below that threshold. Through 56 quarters of football in 2013, Stanford had scored more than 7 points in 21 quarters of play. 9 were against abysmal teams on defense.
Now, as David Shaw has his first graduating class that are his recruits, we can finally see Shaw for who he really is as a head coach. If 2014 was the real David Shaw, Stanford football is heading back to mediocrity fast. An 8-5 season with a defense that was top 5 in critical statistics is not a good omen. On top of that, Stanford went 1-5 against ranked teams in 2014 and averaged just 16 points per game in those 6 games. Out of those 5 losses, you can't really pick which offensive game was the most embarrassing - Perhaps it was the 10-point outburst against USC or the 17 against Utah in a double overtime game.
Enter 2015; David Shaw has officially entered the twilight zone. Recruits are golden, the offensive talent is there, the defense is young but Lance Anderson is a guru, and on top of that, Desmond Howard picked Stanford to win the National Title live on ESPN. But that all came screeching to a halt when the offense put up 6 points at Northwestern. Yes, things go wrong, but not that bad, and not with the talent that's been assembled on the offensive side of the ball.
And this is where we are with David Shaw. One way or another, it's time to change things up. Maybe it's time to pass the offensive play-calling to somebody else?
Or maybe it's time for David Shaw to step up and show us a side of himself he hasn't shown yet.